Hitchin Folk Club have played their last performance at The Sun Hotel ballroom, ending a 39-year association with the venue.

Keiron Jones - who runs the club with his wife Maureen - bid a fond farewell on the Sunday after Christmas: "It is sad but, after 39 years, four months and 1,598 concerts, we have left The Sun," he said.

"We will truly miss that beautiful ballroom that has held so many wonderful memories."

The folk club have already taken up a new permanent residence at Hitchin Cricket Club, with the first performance taking place on Sunday - a double header of Emily Slade and Liz Simcock.

Reflecting on the club's decision to leave The Sun, Kieron said: "The situation at The Sun has deteriorated to such a state that we stopped putting the singers up there, stopped eating there and, now, stopped putting on our concerts there.

"Up until the arrival of the new manager, the hotel had recognised the level of business we brought in. But that all changed. We are a non-profit club putting on the best music available. With the new room charge - and the increased bedroom charges - all those breakeven nights became losses.

"Since her arrival in March, the new manager has succeeded in getting rid of the majority of regular users, The Comedy Club, Rotary, Round Table, Line Dancers, Hitchin Town Band and, finally, us.

"It's a sad feeling to not be playing at The Sun, but in a way, it's a relief because we didn't know what to expect one week from another.

"We have estimated that we generated £36,000 worth of business each year for The Sun which is not to be sniffed at.

"Hotel managers have put their heart and soul into trying to make it work, but with no backing. They are fighting a losing battle. I hope they can bring it round but, one can't help thinking that Greene King has other plans."

Looking to its new partnership, which will continue with a gig featuring Phil Beer and Kirsty Merryn on January 19, Kieron added: "Hitchin Cricket Club has welcomed us with open arms to its brand new pavilion, and really has done everything possible to fit in with our needs, including procuring extra chairs and a stage."

A spokesperson for The Sun Hotel said: "We regret Hitchin Folk Club have chosen to continue their performances at a new venue in 2020. We have been proud to host them across four decades and see them go from strength to strength. We would welcome the opportunity to host them again and do hope that they will choose to return to us again in the future."